Dan in the white room at Madarao Mountain

Yesterday was bluebird. Then the snow started. Then the avalanche unzipped the snowpack!

We woke up to 46cm's of beautiful snow. The white fluffies that make our hearts skip a beat. It is hard to fathom how different the mountain feels when it is bluebird compared to when it is snowing so heavily you end up with a cm or more on your ski jacket just while riding the chairlift.

We have had a sensational day but it has also been interesting. We knew the layers would be weak today so we decided not to go out the back or into the side country.

We set off a few small slough slides through the morning... Nothing surprising in the terrain we were in and then a scary but small avy in the Ninja Tree run unzipped. People often ask me why I ride resort with avalanche gear. I spend my day wearing a beacon and carrying a probe, shovel and avalanche airbag too. The reasons I ride with the gear is because it gives me peace of mind, allows me to all of a sudden do side country or back country if I bump into other people with gear which is every other day here in Madarao and it means I am ready for the unexpected.

The avalanche we set off was in tree'd terrain on a slope of approximately 35 degrees. A 40cm deep slab slid on a layer of hoar frost. It was 30 meters wide and ran all the way to the flat of the run. Nobody was caught in it.

I hear a common statement all the time... "You don't need to worry about avalanches in places like Madarao because there are trees everywhere". This is entirely inaccurate. Avalanches can occur in areas with significant tree cover. It is true that there is less chance of the snowpack failing but it does happen. When it happens it can often go really big because it happens less frequently and as a result there is more built up snowpack to slide.

What is the moral to the story? Should people wear gear inbounds? I think it is a decision for each person but I know what is right for me and mine. Akira my boy and his riding buddy Dylan are not allowed to ride without all the gear. I know they are safe and they are trained. they know how to rescue each other, they know how to dig a pit and analyse the snow pack and they are scared enough to make good decisions and turn around if it is sketchy. Watching their attitudes to snow change from frothers to seriously skilled assessorsrs of snow safety as they have been trained has been interesting. Most people have no training at all and are making assumptions about riding snow with either no information or inaccurate information. I see people who live here in Madarao dropping into the side country on slopes I know are dangerous without the gear to protect themselves or rescue their friends and they have no idea they are at risk.

The sad thing for my boy is that this year he lost a friend in an avalanche. It is all too real for him and he takes it very seriously. I wish more people did but I also understand people just want to have fun and not think about the safety or issues of the real world when they are on holiday.

My two cents are simple... snow is fun but it can also be a wild beast. Get trained, buy the gear, take the gear with you, have more fun and get better snow.

Pic today the view from inside the white room...

Posted on Sun 10 February 2019